Vedic influence on the Sun-worship in the Puranas

by Goswami Mitali | 2018 | 76,487 words

This page relates ‘Conclusion’ of the study on the Vedic influence of Sun-worship in the Puranas, conducted by Goswami Mitali in 2018. The tradition of observing Agnihotra sacrifice and the Sandhya, etc., is frequently observed among the Hindus. Another important innovation of the Sun-worship in the Puranas is the installation of the images of the Sun in the temples.

Chapter 6 - Conclusion

The present work entitled ‘Vedic Influence on the Sun-Worship in the Purāṇas—A Study’ deals with an analytical and comparative study on the worship of the Sun-god as revealed in the Vedas and the Purāṇas. The Sun-god is considered as one of the prominent deities in the Vedic pantheon.

The great impact of the Sun-god on the universe is marked by the Vedic seers and he is appreciated as the soul of the entire world:

ekaiva vā mahānātmā devatā tat sūrya ityācakṣate. (Sarvānukramaṇī, 2.14.20)

The Sun-god is worshipped with different names and epithets in the Vedas, Epics and the Purāṇas. Different aspects of the deity have given rise to independent forms of the god.

The Sun-god, representative of the sun-beam, is called Viṣṇu, the god of wide space:

atha yad viṣito bhavati tad viṣṇurbhavati (Nirukta, 12.18).

Again, Pūṣan, a form of the Sun is the god of prosperity:

atha yadraśmipoṣaṃ puṣyati tatpūṣā bhavati (Nirukta, 12.16.).

The preservative aspect of the deity is revealed by the form Mitra:

mitraḥ pramīteḥ trāyate (Nirukta, 10.21).

The multiple names and forms for one single deity occur due to the fact that different aspects of the Sun-god were worshipped in different period and positions of the day, giving rise to independent forms. The Sungod is called Āditya in the Vedas and the Purāṇas, as he is the son of Kāśyapa and Aditi (Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 10.88.11). Along with Sūrya, Mitra, Varuṇa, Bhaga, Aryaman, Aṃśa, etc., are jointly invoked under the name Ādityas, both in the Vedas and the Purāṇas. Their names and numbers are quite uncertain. In the Vedas, generally they are enumerated as twelve, identified with the twelve months of the year, which continued up to the Purāṇas identifying the forms with the twelve months of the year.

The Sun-god is delineated as the ultimate source of light and heat, who, with immense power, bestows life on earth. He is the generative force of the universe. He stands as the remover of the diseases and the sins, and he is invoked, due to its power of magic and medicine. He is identified with the Supreme Brahman, in the Vedas and the Purāṇas. The worshippers, meditating on him, are united with Ultimate Truth or Reality.

Various Vedic contexts contain references to the Sūryadarśana, Sūryanamaskāra, Sandhyopāsanā, etc., in honour of the Sun-god. In the Purāṇas, the Vedic tradition of Sun-worship was given priority and it has been transformed into the Sun-cult with minor changes and additions. The significant innovation in the Sunworship in the Purāṇas is the installation of the images of the Sun in the temples. A number of modes and methods of worshipping the Sun-god is developed in the Purāṇic period.

The present study involves the Vedic scriptures as a whole, but only some relative Mahāpuāṇas are brought under the purview of the study, along with one of the minor Purāṇas, called the Sāmbapurāṇa, which is considered as the milestone in the field of Purāṇic Sun-cult. The materials are elaborated and analyzed through a comparative study of the various relevant texts.

The study comprises six chapters. The Introductory Chapter is captioned as Vedic Concept of God and Religion, which deals with the Vedic concept of god and religion, in particular, after a careful study on the origin and evolution of religion. At the very outset, the chapter contains a brief discussion on the Vedic literature, which is regarded as the pertinent source of socio-religious history of ancient India. The origin of the term religion is traced in the chapter, which is derived from the Latin word religare or religere, that convey the similar sense, i.e. the sense of unity or harmony, as the outcome of the binding of the man to the god, or the man with the society, with the bond of piety, or any kind of rehearse, through which the unity or harmony can be maintained. The process of religion has two sides, i.e. the inner and the outer. From the inner point of view, it is the state of belief and feeling towards the supernatural power, and from the outer, it is the expression of subjective disposition, in the form of worship and service. The chapter contains some remarkable views regarding the religion that have been given by different renowned scholars from different parts of the world.

It is observed that here are two primary theories, relating to the origin of the religion, one is the theory of divine origin and the other is the theory of human origin. The theory of divine origin implies the god as the ultimate source of religion while the theory of human origin entails the human consideration or judgment as the ultimate cause. The theories, Animism, Naturalism or Animatism, Magic, Totemism are thoroughly discussed.

The religion is broadly divided into three groups, viz. the Tribal Religion, the National Religion and the Universal Religion. Again, according to the different theories, relating to the origin and evolution of it, religion can be categorized into the following groups: Primal Religion, Naturalistic Religion, Humanistic Religion and the Spiritual Religion. The Primal Religion comprises the Animism, Spiritism, Fetishism, Manaism or Ancestor worship and Totemism. The Naturalistic Religion involves the worship of the object of nature or the power of nature. The Humanistic and Spiritual Religion deal with the worship of the human and the spirits, beyond the world, respectively.

Then, the chapter discusses, in detail, the Vedic concept of religion. The term dharma is used in Sanskrit for religion, which is derived from root dhṛñ, dhāraṇe, meaning to support, or dhṛṅ, avasthāne, meaning to take a position. In different senses, the term dharma is used in the Vedas. It includes in it religion, duty, sacrifice, religious ordinance, moral order, fixed principles, or rules of conduct, virtue, etc. From the etymological point of view, the term gives the meaning of supporter, or sustainer, or upholder. Different gods are invoked as the protector, or the supporter, or the sustainer of the rituals and the individuals in the Vedic texts, which is rightly called as the dharma. The sacrifices are also called dharma, from sustaining the earth, causing the rain, purifying the entire vegetation and herbs and producing cereals for livelihood.

The Vedic religion is the naturalistic religion, which is ritualistic in nature. With the application of the mantras and the ritualistic activities, the divine powers are propitiated, so that they bestow the desired objects to the devotees along with the showers of blessings. A nearest and close relationship, in between the worshipper and the worshipped, are tried to be developed. The idea of unification of the deities in the Vedic pantheon is distinctly observed in the Vedic mantra: ekaṃ sad viprāḥ bahudhā vadantyagniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ/ The Vedic religion is the monotheistic one, though, in its first sight, it appears like the polytheistic one with the enumeration of a large number of gods.

According to the etymology, the term deva is derived from the root , dīp or dyut. Due to the shining character, heavenly qualities and deeds of supremacy, the powerful aspects of the nature are regarded as the gods in the Vedic religion. The greatness and diversity of functions of a single deity has given rise to a large number of divinities in the Vedic pantheon. The common characteristic features of the Vedic deities are also highlighted in the present chapter.

The Second Chapter is entitled Salient Traits of the Solar Divinities in the Veda. First of all, the chapter contains the detailed deliberation on the importance of the deity Sūrya, which is indeed the deified form of the atmospheric Sun. He is the most concrete form of the Solar divinities. Being the creator of the day and night, the deity provides heat and light towards the whole universe and stands as the ultimate cause of the food and nutrition. Sūrya is eulogized as the soul of universe. The immense power of the deity finds expression in the eulogy of the deity as the healer, remover of sin, evil dreams, etc. He is worshipped as the lord of the morality as well as the Utimate Reality in the Vedic texts.

Thereafter, the chapter deals with the salient traits of the other Solar divinities, viz. Savitṛ, Mitra, Pūṣan, Viṣṇu, Vivasvat and the Ādityas, along with Vena and Rohita. The stimulative aspect of the Sun is represented by the form Savitṛ in the Vedas. The deity Savitṛ is connected with the Gāyatrīmantra. The Gāyatrīmantra contains the notion that solar light is the symbol of ultimate knowledge and reality. Again, Mitra delineates the friendly aspect of the Sun. Pūṣan is the lord of prosperity as well as the pastoral deity. Thus, after delineating the salient traits of different solar gods, the chapter discusses the Sun-worship in the theriomorphic, fetishistic and symbolic forms. Different fetishes are identified as the Sun in the Vedic pantheon, e.g. horse, Dadhikrā, Tārkṣya, Aja, bird, lotus, etc.

Different rituals in the Vedic pantheon involve the worship of the Sun under different names and forms. The predominance of the Sun-worship is seen in the Gṛhya rituals like the Vivāha, Niṣkramaṇa, Upanayana, etc., along with the Śrauta rituals like Agnihotra, and so on. The deity was worshipped in the Vedas, mainly with the prayer and praise. The best means of worshipping the deity was the recital of Gāyatrī or Sandhyopāsanā.

The Third Chapter of the work is entitled General Characteristics of the Purāṇic Religion and Its Links with the Vedic Tradition. At the very outset, the chapter deals with the meaning of the term purāṇa, its content and the characteristic features, and its close connectivity with the Vedas, chiefly with the Dharmaśāstras, the fivefold or the tenfold characteristics of the Purāṇic texts, and the threefold divisions of the Purāṇas according to the guṇas. The chapter also takes an overview on the Pre-Purāṇic religious systems which influence the religion of the Purāṇas.

The Purāṇic religion is fully influenced by the Vedas. With the downfall of the Buddhism and the declination of the Jainism, the Vedic faith with sectarianism was installed. Due to the growth and development of the sectarianism, most of the deities of the Vedic pantheon went to the backdrop, and five deities, viz. Viṣṇu, Śiva, Durgā (Śakti), Sūrya and Gaṇeśa were worshipped as the prominent deities in the Purāṇas. The worship of the personal gods, instead of the Vedic Brāhmaṇical community worship, is the new innovation in the field of the Purāṇic religion. The Purāṇic religion introduces some new ideas like bhakti, avatāras, image-worship, pūjā, vrata, tīrtha, etc., those are indeed innovated from the various Vedic religious practices.

The last part of the chapter contains a note on the growth of the Purāṇic texts, for propitiating the Sun. Though the Sun-god was worshipped in the Vedic period, yet the Sun-worship as cult and sect was established only in the Epic-Purāṇic age. In the growth of the Purāṇic Sun-cult, there was the influence of the Magian Sun-worshipper, who belonged to the Śākadvīpa. Numerous Purāṇic texts were composed in devotion of the deity, but only some of them are available now. They are the pertinent source of the Purāṇic Sun-cult, dealing with the Sun-worship, Sun temples, vrata-culture, etc.

The Fourth Chapter of the thesis captioned The Vedic Influence on the Sun-Worship in the Purāṇas. At the very outset, it deals with the Saura-cult, the glimpses of which have been observed in the contents of the great Epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata. The chapter discusses, in detail, the eulogy of the Sun-god in the Purāṇas. Following the Vedic tradition, the deity is worshipped in the Purāṇas, due to his atmospheric aspect, power of creation or preservation, etc. He is identified with the Supreme Brahman. The twelve aspects of the deity are worshipped in twelve different forms in the Purāṇas under the title Āditya, which is derived from the Vedas. The anthropomorphic character of the deity is very prominent in the Purāṇas, which is influenced by the Vedas. As the deity fulfils the desires of his worshipper, he is worshipped with different modes of worship.

Viśvakarmā had made the image of the Sun for the first time. Prior to it, the deity was worshipped in his maṇḍala form. He is worshipped with the Gāyatrī or the Sandhyopāsanā. Again, the worship of the deity in his symbolic form is well described in the Purāṇic texts, as well as the Vedas. The lotus, horse, etc., are the symbols of the sun, which are profusely used in the worship of the deity. Different temples were built for his propitiation. The images of the deity were worshipped with flowers, scents, red sandal paste, clothes, water, dhūpa, aguru, guggula, karpūra, naivedya, akṣata, lamps, honey, milk, etc. Besides these, he was worshipped with the mudrā, japa, namaskāra, along with the arghya, observance of fasts, vows and so on and so forth. King Sāmba had brought the Magian priest from the Śākadvīpa to worship the sun, who occupied a prime role in the growth and development of the Purāṇic Sun-cult.

The iconographic features of the deity are recorded in the Purāṇic texts. The chapter contains discussion on the iconographic representation of the Sun along with the assistants and family members. Seven types of images of the Sun-god are found in the Purāṇas, They are Kāñcanī, Rājatī, Tāmrī, Pārthivī, Śailajā, Vārkṣī and Ālekhyā. All those images are divided on the basis of the material with which they are made of. The chapter contains a great deliberation on the size of the image of the deity. The procedure of installation of the Sun-image in the temples is also described.

The Purāṇas glorify the building of a temple. They contain huge information relating to the different Sun-temples located in different parts of India. The Purāṇic texts narrate some legendary episodes connected with the origin of such temples. The Sun-god was worshipped under different names in the temples, appearing before his devotees, occupying different forms. Besides the temples, there were some centres of pilgrimage mentioned in the Purāṇic texts. With a view to getting relief from different diseases or sins or to fulfil different desires the devotees went to the pilgrimage and took their sacred baths on different months and different constellations. His worship as the remover of diseases and reliever of sins is very much prominent in the Vedas and it has a direct impact on the Sun-worship in the pilgrimage and temples in Purāṇas.

The Fifth Chapter of the work entitled Rituals Related to the Sun-Worship in the Purāṇas. This chapter, first of all, deals with some sacrifices and saṃskāras, where the Sun-god is worshipped with great devotion right from the time of the Vedas.

After that, it contains a long deliberation on different vratas, like, Kalyānasaptamī, Phalasaptamī, etc., narrating the rules and regulations to be performed during its observance. Besides this, the chapter contains discussion on some festivals related to the Sun.

The Sixth Chapter of the work presents an overall summary and conclusion of the study. After reviewing the earlier chapters, it can be concluded that, due to the beneficial impact, the Sun-god is worshipped by the people right from the time of the Vedas. The tradition of worshipping the deity is continued, following the Vedic order which involves in it, the practices of Sandhyā, offerings of oblations, etc. Again, the idea of vrata or austerities, etc., is developed among the people which indeed has developed on an organized scale, as a part and parcel of the Sun-cult, essentially in the Purāṇas. There is not a single reference of worshipping the deity, constructing some image, in the Vedic religion. It is the later development in the period of the Purāṇas which is practiced by the religious people in the present society also. With the development of the image-worship, there develops the effort of construction of the temples, in devotion of the Sun. From a keen observation, it can be deduced that the Purāṇic Sun-cult bears the direct influence of the Vedic Sun-worship. In the Vedic period the deity was worshipped as one of the simplest forms of the nature, which transforms into the sectarian worship of the Sun constituting the Sun-cult in the Purāṇas.

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